On this ten-day expedition through northern Southeast Alaska visit Alaska's capital city, Glacier Bay National Park and Yakutat, one of the largest and southern most known breeding colonies of Aleutian Terns. Visit Yakutat in late-May, early-June to take part in the annual Tern Festival. During the festival enjoy Native cultural events, educational seminars, wildlife photography workshops, bird banding demonstrations, numerous activities for kids, and much more.
Juneau — Alaska's Capital City (+)
Juneau — Alaska's Capital City (-)
Take the ferry or fly to Juneau, Alaska's capital city. The Mendenhall Wildlife Refuge and Juneau airport wetlands together provide some of the best and most accessible birding habitat in Juneau. The combination of easy access, great visibility, and transitional habitats all lead to productive birding. During the peak of the spring migration in May, thousands of birds are present. Rent a car and drive to some of the other productive sites such as Point Bridget State Park and Cowee Creek, Eagle Beach at the mouth of the Eagle-Herbert River Drainage, and Amalga Marsh, adjoining Eagle River. While walking through old-growth forest, listen for Pacific-sloped Flycatcher, Townsend's warbler, brown creeper, and golden-crowned kinglet. The biggest birding treat is the possibility of hearing a sora, or even a Virginia rail. Don't forget to visit the Mendenhall Glacier, the only glacier in Southeast Alaska accessible by road. The Mendenhall Glacier foreland in front of Mendenhall Lake is an area in ecological succession after the retreat of the glacier. There are numerous ponds and small lakes and dense deciduous shrubs and trees. A variety of species of birds rare in most of Juneau, are regularly found here, including, American redstart, northern waterthrush, Vaux's swift, gray-cheeked thrush, and warbling vireo.
Gustavus — Gateway to Glacier Bay National Park (+)
Gustavus — Gateway to Glacier Bay National Park (-)
The Alaska Marine Highway offers year-round service to nearby Gustavus, making it easy to visit Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in just a few days. About 240 species of birds have been recorded in the Park. The high diversity and abundance of birdlife is due to the variety and extent of favorable breeding habitats available within the park, many of which contain ample food resources and low numbers of land predators. Each bird species has distance seasonal patterns, but birds are generally most abundant from early-May to mid-September. Forest, beach meadow and tidal flats attract many bird species, particularly during migration. Rain forest species include three-toed woodpecker. Substantial populations of several neotropical migrant warblers, thrushes and other songbirds including the ruby-crowned kinglets, fox sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers and varied thrushes can be easily seen. Shorebirds, waterfowl, and eagles use beaches and gulls, diving ducks and alcids feed near shore. Glacier Bay National Park provides a great opportunity to view some amazing species surrounded by beautiful tidewater glaciers. Watch carefully for toppling columns of blue ice, smashing into the sea with a primeval thunder. Few places in the world offer the chance to experience these ancient sights and sounds. Take the ferry back to Juneau and prepare for travel to the last port on your itinerary.
Yakutat — The Place Where the Canoes Rest (+)
Yakutat — The Place Where the Canoes Rest (-)
Ferry service is offered between Juneau and Yakutat twice per month in the summer, so for a well-rounded experience fly one-way and ferry the other. Over 200 species of birds have been identified in Yakutat - over 100 species breed or are suspected of breeding on the forelands. The sheer number of birds during migrations are extraordinary - over 300,000 shorebirds; hundreds of sandhill cranes and raptors; numerous swans, waterfowl and seabirds; and high densities of songbirds. Early in the spring migration, a spectacle of huge numbers of bald eagles, mergansers, gulls, and other birds gather at the mouths of rivers and streams to feed on enormous schools of hooligan. Breeding birds are distributed throughout a variety of habitats in late-spring and summer. Songbirds take advantage of such habitats as needle-leaf forests, tall shrubs, bogs, riparian areas and marshes. In Yakutat, birders can view the largest breeding colony of Aleutian terns in North America. Enjoy frequent sightings of marbled murrelets and Kittlitz's murrelets, and even have a chance of encountering yellow-billed loons and black-footed albatross. Viewing and listening to birds is possible within close proximity to the town of Yakutat. Birders can hike the trails, canoe or kayak the waterways, or drive a rental car in pursuit of good bird watching. Return home via ferry through Alaska's Inside Passage or fly. No matter how you customize your trip, birding in Southeast Alaska is an adventure of a lifetime.